Teens still boozin’ in spite of consumption consequences

By SpencerRoush

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to try and score some booze on a Friday night. Getting a case or two of beer and driving out to an abandoned house, barn or cornfield for a party is often a typical weekend occurrence, or at least this was true for Cardington, the one-stoplight town I’m from in Ohio.

Activities considered good, clean fun were limited, so it was the illegal acts that held our attention.

If alcohol wasn’t available one night, teens would instead toilet paper someone’s house or vandalize it in other ways. This didn’t necessarily mean draping 20-foot pine trees in toilet paper or taking a swig of cheap beer was a particularly new idea, but it was a thrill.

It’s the thrill of wandering through school hallways after a weekend of debauchery, hoping the superintendent wouldn’t pull you aside and ask why you dumped old living room furniture sets in his or her front yard and then drove by the next morning to watch it be cleaned up. It’s the thrill of the principal calling the police after spotting people outside who were spooning and forking his or her newly treated lawn.

High school is a time of pranks and rebellion. Once the senior students graduated, a new wave of students picked up where the others left off, developing more creative pranks and hosting bigger, better parties.

One thing that hasn’t changed is teens’ desire for alcohol. The beer doesn’t need to be high-quality because it only serves one purpose—to get drunk.

With the weather warming up and prom season approaching, police officers are cracking down on underage drinking. Twenty-four municipalities in Lake County Ill. have approved “social-host” laws calling for penalizing anyone who allows a minor to drink or use drugs. Barrington and Lake Forest are the most recent suburbs to jump on the bandwagon.

Illinois state law punishes any adult who provides alcohol to a teen or party that results in an injury or death. Chicago’s social-host ordinance goes further, stating that any “supervising adult” can be jailed for up to six months if they’re convicted of allowing teen possession or underage drinking.

The social-host ordinances are supposed to make adults think twice before purchasing alcohol for a minor. Parents may be more leery about providing alcohol to underage gatherings. But it won’t stop underage drinking.

Some people are also pushing for these social-host ordinances to act as a template for an Illinois state law. I think they forget what it’s like to be a teenager. Adolescents are crafty and there will always be a way to get booze, whether it’s walking into a college fraternity party or bribing an older sibling.

It’s naïve to think enforcing restrictive laws on parents will get to the root of the problem. The issue of underage consumption begins with how American society portrays alcohol to youth.

Adolescents are told alcohol is bad, yet they see their older family members drinking and having a great time. This is the wrong approach. It’s the responsibility of parents to explain the side effects of drinking and how to consume alcohol safely, because they should know their teens are probably going to drink.

In European countries, drinking alcohol is imbedded in most cultures. Young people have wine at dinner with their parents at early ages and getting carded at a club or bar is highly unlikely, no matter how young one looks.

In the United States, many parents and schools portray alcohol as negative, leaving many teens curious to try it out for themselves. It’s also the thrill of getting caught by someone and running from the police when they bust a party.

The more society lies to adolescents about alcohol not being fun or worthwhile, the more they will want to rebel and achieve that drunken state.